Fashion & Style

What is semi-formal?

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semi-formal dress
A semi-formal occasion calls for a touch of glamour and a mindset that is relaxed and ready for fun.
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Consider what is stylish if semi-formal is requested

Cinderella—the belle of the ball. A diamond tiara crowned her head. The floor-length ball gown she wore was a gossamer cloud of pearls and silken petals. The prince held her gently as they twirled across the dance floor. Stardust trailed the pair, lost in each other’s eyes. Thank goodness Cinderella’s fairy godmother knew so well the difference between formal and semi-formal attire.

Sometimes, it’s not easy to know how to dress for an important occasion. Oftentimes, the location of the event is a clue. Is the venue fancy or casual? Is the invitation delivered via private courier or postal worker? A call to the hostess is a last resort, if mention of appropriate dress is amiss on the invitation. Many invitations will note whether or not a gathering is a formal assembly or a semi-formal event.

Formal traditionally means all-out elegant. It means floor-length gowns for the women and sometimes hours of preparation tending to makeup, hair styling and the selection of one’s most dazzling jewelry. Formal means white tie and tails or head-turning tuxedos for the men. Semi-formal, however, means stylish evening wear without the high stress level of formal attire. What is semi-formal? It’s as fancy as it gets—without the attitude.

What fabrics make semi-formal attire special?

Women are lucky when it comes to choosing a semi-formal dress. There are many options. But what is semi-formal length? A semi-formal can be short. A semi-formal dress can be knee high. It also can be mid-calf length. The choice is up to you, as long as the choice is elegant but not excessive when it comes to what is semi-formal.

If it is not too fussy, a semi-formal can be ankle length. Long dresses are fine—if the fabric is one that is light enough to swirl about when startled into motion by a captivating dance tune. What is semi-formal? It’s velvet with a slightly naughty neckline. It’s silk with undergarments that show no seams. It is one step away from the diamond tiara. Instead, lovely cubic zirconia earrings will do.

Semi-formal is glamorous and giddy compared to formal wear in which one must stand up straight and refrain from laughing too often. It is an attitude of looking good and knowing others are sensing that you look good, too. A semi-formal event is one at which camaraderie and cocktails are shared without haughty airs. Nobody is out to monopolize the conversation. Nobody is out to do anything but have fun, dance and dine. Silk, satin, velvet and other smooth materials go far to make what is semi-formal simply magnificent.

What shoes add a bit of glamour?

What is semi-formal? It’s the freedom to use a bit more flash as accessory items. Shoes are important. High heels—up to six inches—made of fabrics or leathers resembling silver or gold are frequent style choices for women. Nevertheless, shoes with medium-high heels—adorned with rich brocade or beading—may suffice for those of an age to favor comfort over altitude.

Men’s shoes meanwhile are more traditional in style but there is room for fashion chivalry. The brave man might consider what is semi-formal as an excuse to shine. Patent leather slip-ons look great and seem somehow dressier than a similar style in buffed leather. All men look good in a nice pair of shiny shoes. In fact, these days, the man who is big or especially tall can easily find king size apparel and shoes that could win him his own Cinderella.

How can one prepare physically for a semi-formal event?

Diet, exercise and attitude can undergo a tune-up. One good thing about important events such as formals or semi-formals is that there usually is plenty of lead time. Invitations go out well in advance. Oftentimes, the event is one that is celebrated annually for a group or organization, so it happens about the same time each year.

A regimen of ready-set-go is in order. Ready? Think about who you will invite. Calculate the fun factor inherent in the personalities of people you know. Could you spend an entire evening with that person? Set? Are you in possession of exercise equipment—equipment that is actually used on a regular basis? Can you do even one set of crunches or pull-ups or squats? Dancing takes energy. Drink lots of water. These days, drinking water purifiers can be installed at home. And bottled water is plentiful.

Are you in good enough condition for a night of activity? Nobody wants to be a wall flower, so think about some increased recreation, sports or other outdoor activity a few weeks ahead of the event. Keep in mind that what is semi-formal is also beautifying. You’ll have more energy and feel great when you...go!

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